What Happens When a Food Critic Isn't Exactly Anonymous?

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LA Weekly critic Jonathan Gold, captured at Flying Pigeon in L.A.
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The top editor at Chow had a moment of ethical self-doubt last week. Jane Goldman showed up for Plow's first weekday breakfast, liked the frittata and lemon-ricotta pancakes, and said so on Chowhound. Two days later Goldman was biting her lip: Should she have weighed in with the force of food critic, since she's hardly anonymous? And since Chow collaborates with chefs and restaurant owners to produce videos, Goldman acknowledged potential conflicts of interest. So she came clean with readers:

What do you think? Should somebody who has a professional relationship with restaurants and restaurateurs--me, I mean--be able to review restaurants? Or even participate in Chowhound discussions?
A fine point for these times, when even professional restaurant critics are shedding their anonymity. And come on: Even a critic like Michael Bauer who's technically anonymous isn't.

Ask any chef who's worked in this town for more than a couple of jobs and she'll tell you she knows exactly what Bauer looks like. Anybody else can just troll Eater.

As for us here at the Weekly, well Jonathan Kauffman is stingier with is identity than any other critic I've known. And me? I'm not a critic, though I do write reviews of dishes almost daily. A former critic, I've had to adjust to my new role as far from hidden, yet far from Marcia. Mostly, I justify this demi-anonymity by rationalizing that I hardly have the power to seriously dent a business with something I could write. Plus the foods I usually write about are so low to the ground that ― seriously ― even if I told the guy folding up my kimchi burrito who I was, he might not spare the effort to look up. Still, I'm grateful to Goldman for keeping the discussion honest.

Follow us on Twitter: @sfoodie. Contact me at John.Birdsall@SFWeekly.com

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Plow

1299 18th St., San Francisco, CA

Category: Restaurant

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